Action for Student Safety: Lessons Learned from Protests in Vietnam
Vietnam is generally a very safe country for foreigners. However sometimes bad things can happen, just like anywhere else in the world. Recently, Vietnam was in the news for protests that happened all over the country, a rarity here. Protests in Vietnam are generally illegal and do not happen often, so when they do, it is a big deal. Political unrest can be very intimidating when you are in a foreign country, especially when you aren’t familiar with the rules and laws. And for incoming students, seeing these things in the news can also be quite scary when you aren’t here to fully understand what is happening. Here we will talk about what to do in these situations and how Student Exchange Vietnam is here to support you. Student safety is our highest priority during your time in Vietnam.
Foreign news outlets reported about the dangers that happened in some provinces with the protests that got violent, however these more violent protests happened hours away from anywhere that we place our students. The protests in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were peaceful with few arrests. It is important to remember that Vietnam is bigger than you may realize, and just because something dangerous is happening in one part of the country that does not mean the whole country is also in danger. Within the major cities there are resources for foreigners in case of emergency in addition to the resources provided by us. When major situations are happening in the country, we will always be watching them closely to ensure our students are not in harm’s way.
Following the Laws & Rules
The most challenging thing that may be faced in Vietnam is following the laws. Vietnam is a single-party socialist republic which makes following the proper laws and procedures of extra importance. Before arriving in a new country, it is always important to know the laws so that you do not get in trouble. Some important laws to follow, especially in these situations, are that you are not allowed to take photos or videos of protests or official government areas, you should also avoid posting anything on social media about the protests other than letting your family and friends know you are safe, and lastly you are especially not allowed under any circumstances, as a foreigner, to participate in protests. If you are aware that protests will be taking place, it is important to stay away from them the best you can to avoid any misinterpretations or misunderstandings. As long as you are aware of these rules and avoid doing anything that may look like you are breaking these rules, you will be completely fine. Any area away from the protests will remain safe and you can proceed as normal. Traffic jams and detours are common at these times as well, so be sure to give yourself a few extra minutes to get to where you need to be.
How Student Exchange Vietnam can Support
As for what Student Exchange Vietnam can do for you, our designated program coordinators will be sure to check in with all of our students to ensure they are safe and aware of the situation and rules surrounding them. We will also discuss with the local companies that the students are working with to be sensitive to the students’ cultural backgrounds and to not discuss politics around the students in case of disagreements or insensitivity. During these times, it is extra important that you carry your SOS card with you and not your passport. SE Vietnam provides all students with an SOS card written in Vietnamese saying that you need assistance and provides our contact information, your local address, and your host family’s contact information (if applicable). You can show these to locals if they do not speak English well and many of them will be willing to help, as is customary in Vietnam. The majority of locals are happy to help foreigners, so do not be afraid just because you cannot speak their language! The Vietnamese people are notoriously friendly and welcoming, as most of you will find after coming to Vietnam! We will also ask your local buddies to set up activities for you to keep you distracted and inform you about what is happening, if needed. Lastly, we will be sure to give a general report to our partner universities, organizations, and parents and our predictions about the level of danger of the situation. Our entire staff will collaborate to ensure we support all of our students to the best of our abilities, as that is the most important thing to us.
Being in a developing country where you face a huge language barrier is already quite intimidating, and additional situations that make you feel uneasy may happen. However, you should know that you are supported and can come to us with any questions or concerns you may have.
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